A word for the New Year (2)

Deuteronomy 11:11 NKJV

This year you will face some mountains and go through some valleys. And you need both. The strength gained from climbing and conquering your last mountain is what will get you through your next valley. It’s in the valley that the sweetest fruit grows. That’s because it’s watered by streams that flow from the mountains. Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8 NKJV).

This year Jesus wants you to be more fruitful in His service. And He tells you how: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5 NKJV). What kind of fruit is God looking for in your life this year?

Paul tells us: “When we live God’s way…He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely” (Galatians 5:22-23 MSG). So this year when you face a mountain or go through a valley, remember that God is with you.

Soul food: Exo 1-3; Matt 3:11-17; Ps 90:1-6; Prov 1:1-4

Love and enjoy your children

Psalm 127:5 TM

Dr. James Dobson once took his young children on a skiing vacation to California. Coping with two kids who were complaining loudly about the cold, and fighting over their gloves and scarves, was getting on his nerves. But on that trip he learned a lesson he would never forget: “After getting the kids located at the lodge, I parked the car and waited for a flatbed truck to take me back to the top of the mountain. About fifteen young skiers waited with me. I noticed a girl in her early twenties standing with the others. When she looked at me, I recognized that unmistakable appearance of mental retardation in her eyes. She was behaving strangely and repeating the word ‘whomever,’ without meaning. The other young skiers smiled and rolled their eyes.

Then I noticed that the man standing near her must be her father. He had seen the reactions of scorn on the faces of the other skiers. So he put his arms around her, looked down lovingly, and said, ‘Yeah babe, whomever.’ The compassion in his voice and his manner seemed to be saying, ‘Yes, it’s true. She is very limited in ability. She won’t write songs. She won’t write books. In fact, she’s already out of school. We’ve done the best we could for her. But I want you all to know something – this is my girl, and I love her. She’s the whole world to me. I’m not ashamed to be her father or to be identified with her. ‘Yeah babe, whomever!'”

Dobson says he apologized to the Lord for complaining about his kids, and looked forward to hugging them at the top of the mountain.

Soul food: Jos 19:24-21:45; John 18:1-11; Ps 148:7-14; Prov 29:16-21

Show compassion (3)

Romans 12:15 NKJV

To show compassion we need to recognise and understand other people’s emotions. The Bible says, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.’ In other words, if someone is hurting, hurt with them, and if they’re happy, be happy for them. If our colleague has just been promoted, we can either let ourselves become jealous and resentful or we can rejoice with them. Or if someone we know just lost a loved one and we don’t know what to say, we just need to be there for them. We can enter a part of the grieving process with them. Showing compassion goes beyond words. It’s about recognising the emotions of others, and then allowing ourselves to feel those emotions too. The Bible tells us about a time when Jesus’ friend died (you can read about this in John 11). When Jesus arrived at the scene, Lazarus had been dead for a few days and everyone was mourning. He knew He could raise Lazarus from the dead, and He did. But before that, we’re told that ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35 NIV). He allowed himself to enter into the emotions of those around Him. And that’s what we need to do too. Paul said: ‘Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves…clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience’ (Colossians 3:12 NLTUK). In our interactions with others, we need to be wearing all these things. If we’re frustrated with someone because of their struggles, or we’re impatient because of the things we’re personally going through, we can sometimes come across as insensitive. But we’re called to be gentle, kind, and patient with people. We’re called to walk alongside people, whatever they’re going through.

Isa 63-66; Matt 13:36-46; Ps 138; Prov 4:14-17

You must show compassion (3)

1 Peter 3:8 NKJV

Compassion means “to enter into another’s passion.” How can you do that? You might, for example, find out why the other person is so stressed or depressed. What’s preoccupying them, why do they feel so passionately, and how can you enter into it? Or maybe a friend has been diagnosed with an illness, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, or cancer. What should you do? Maybe your brother or cousin is planning a high-end wedding or has bought a new home in an upscale neighbourhood. Perhaps an associate just got promoted and the rest of their coworkers are envious and resentful. Attitudes are fickle at best – and outright ugly at worst. But the person who got promoted is beaming, so enter into their passion and beam with them! Maybe someone you know just lost a loved one and you don’t know what to say. Don’t say anything; just “be there”! The Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 NKJV). In other words, if someone is hurting, hurt with them, and if they’re happy, be happy for them. Enter into their passion – that’s how you show compassion! In an effort to look holy, sometimes we come across as harsh and insensitive. Here’s how Paul addressed that very issue: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves…clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NLT). Some of us have to work harder at this than others. But there’s no opt-out clause: “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another.” That includes you!

Soul food: Isa 63-66; Matt 13:36-46; Ps 138; Prov 4:14-17

Show compassion (2)

James 5:11 NIV

When it comes to Christlike compassion, the Bible teaches us two more things. Firstly, compassion relates to the needs of others. Paul writes, ‘Jesus…This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do’ (Hebrews 4:14-15 NLT). Jesus understands. Whatever situation, challenge, or difficulty we find ourselves in, Jesus can relate. He faced pressure, rejection, pain, temptation, and false accusations. And when we face those things, we can understand how other people feel too. None of us like facing tough times, but those times are the ones which grow our compassion. We become able to help and encourage those who are facing a similar situation. Secondly, compassion responds to the needs of others. It’s not enough just to recognise and relate to the needs of others. We need to provide practical help; otherwise, our compassion doesn’t mean much. Jesus responded to sick people with healing, to hungry people with food, and to lost people with the good news of the gospel. Maybe we can sponsor a hungry child, spend time with someone who is lonely, bring a meal to someone who’s grieving, pray for someone who is struggling, or listen patiently to someone who needs a friend. The Bible says that Jesus ‘went around doing good’ (Acts 10:38 NIV). We need to make sure we’re focused on ‘doing good’ rather than appearing good. Our compassion shouldn’t just be for show. In James 5, we’re told that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.’ Are we people who are full of compassion? And are we prepared to let that compassion move us to help when we see people in need?

Isa 58-62; Matt 13:24-35; Ps 134; Prov 4:5-13